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Low-Hanging Fruit: Ryan Church

After Frank Wren went on his used-to-be great closer binge, Rafael Soriano threw a big fat monkey wrench in the Braves’ plans by accepting salary arbitration. Ryan Church is now the scapegoat, as the Braves designated him assignment to make room for Soriano on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Church doesn’t really deserve this, as he’s not a bad ballplayer. Church is your Joe Average outfielder, and I don’t mean that as a knock. The average player, or a player that is good for around two wins is worth about $8-9 million on the free agent market. That’s Ryan Church, at least when he has been able to stay on the field. Church’s trouble is that he has either been blocked by other players or hurt, problems that are no real fault of his own. He suffered through concussions in 2008 and a bad back in 2009.

Assuming he’s¬†healthy, you can bank on Church getting on base at a .340 clip, hit for some moderate power and play excellent defense in the corners. With an unusual paucity for corner outfielders in this free agent market outside of Matt Holliday and a couple of overrated and soon to be¬†overpaid players such as Jason Bay and Johnny Damon, Church could be a decent patch job for a club, and is at worst a first-rate 4th outfielder, all at the price of virtually nothing.

The irony is that Church and Soriano are probably more valuable to the Braves than Wagner and Takashi Saito. It’s not the end of the world for Atlanta; Wren could easily redeem himself with a nice package of prospects for Soriano, but so far this has been one poorly managed start to an offseason for the Braves’ front office.

How do you think Ryan Church will do in 2010? Enter your projection for him here.